Take hat and party

Mike Scott, lead singer of the Waterboys, giving a book reading.
Mike Scott, lead singer of the Waterboys, giving a book reading.

Live review: Mike Scott at the Sage Gateshead

YOU can always tell when a rock star is getting literary.

They start wearing hats or glasses – or, in extreme cases – both.

Mike Scott went for the double whammy at the Sage Gateshead’s hall two this week, so he was clearly feeling as literary as Will Self in a large library full of big books containing lots of long words.

The 53-year-old had tried out the hat visual cue for size at his last visit to the riverside venue back in March with the Waterboys, starting off and ending up bare-headed but sticking on a titfer for the middle section devoted to poems by William Butler Yeats he’d set to music for his last album, released just over a year ago.

This time round, though, like his heroes and fellow rock star writers Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith before him, he went the whole hog.

The first hour of Scott’s latest visit to the Sage was devoted to reading extracts from his autobiography, Adventures of a Waterboy, published in the summer, followed by a half-hour acoustic concert accompanied by his bandmate Steve Wickham.

He read well, using his soft Edinburgh accent to good advantage but never tipping over into affectation.

He also opted, despite the odd arch remark here and there, not to take the easy option by looking for laughs, but, none the less, he got them, often for reasons difficult to fathom.

A few of those present were, inexplicably, in hysterics throughout, possibly having mistaken Scott for Michael McIntyre or some other comedian with a similar name and determined to get the money’s worth despite the mix-up.

A couple of lines from the singer’s 2000 song We are Jonah – ‘Spotlit he stood, said what he thought he should. Half the crowd did laugh, though there was no joke’ – sprang to mind.

Scott being a rock star with a book to sell, a bit of name-dropping was inevitable, Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant and ex-New York Doll Johnny Thunders providing subject matter for two anecdotes, but it was used only sparingly and not at all gratuitously.

He never came across as anything other than sincere but was content to offer a largely superficial look back over his life, a fact emphasised by the one extract delving a bit deeper into his thoughts and feelings – his account of his 2007 reconciliation with his father Allan Scott after years apart in, of all places, the West Midlands.

His recollection of his first meeting with Wickham segued neatly into a cracking seven-song set by the pair, both seated throughout, Scott singing and playing 12-string guitar and Wickham on fiddle.

Kicking off with the first song they played together all those years ago, Savage Earth Heart, they moved onto Mad as the Mist and Snow from last year’s An Appointment with Mr Yeats, the solo single Bring ’Em All In, an old folk song called Low Down in the Broom and the Waterboys favourites A Man is in Love, Fisherman’s Blues and The Pan Within.

Scott’s biggest hit, The Whole of the Moon, was conspicuous by its absence, but, given the quality of the material on offer, wasn’t missed a bit.

His autobiography is out in hardback, published by Lilliput Press, priced £20, and as a Jawbone Press paperback for £5 less. For details, go to www.mikescottwaterboys.com